Earthquakes, Hurricanes and. . .Shale?


"The U.S. Geological Survey announced has increased its estimates of Marcellus Shale natural gas deposits to a staggering 84 trillion cubic feet."

It's turning out to be quite a week for the experts at the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS). Tuesday brought about one of the biggest earthquakes to hit Virginia in over a century, and today and over the weekend the East Coast will again feel nature's wrath with a category 2+ hurricane on its way.

But somewhere in between tracking the shakes and tides, the USGS found some time to report on a bright spot in our nation's geological marvels. The Survey announced Tuesday that they have increased their estimates of natural gas deposits in the Marcellus Shale to a staggering 84 trillion cubic feet. And what's more, the Survey is attributing the increase to technological advancements in producing these unconventional resources. From the USGS release:

The Marcellus Shale contains about 84 trillion cubic feet of undiscovered, technically recoverable natural gas and 3.4 billion barrels of undiscovered, technically recoverable natural gas liquids according to a new assessment by the U. S. Geological Survey (USGS). . . .The increase in undiscovered, technically recoverable resource is due to new geologic information and engineering data, as technological developments in producing unconventional resources have been significant in the last decade. . . .Technological improvements resulted in commercially viable gas production and the rapid development of a major, new continuous natural gas and natural gas liquids play in the Appalachian Basin, the oldest producing petroleum province in the United States. (USGS, 8/23/11)

But somehow, as the federal government itself is reporting on the wealth and promise of domestic energy resources, Congress and the White House are still debating what exactly will improve our nation's economy. In fact, White House deputy spokesman Josh Earnest commented on the president's upcoming speech, saying President Obama will include "some reasonable ideas" on job creation "that can have a tangible impact." Clearly, our nation has vast and beneficial options in our natural gas industry, despite a wave of controversy. From Investor's Business Daily:

Despite efforts in the media and Congress to shut it down through fear and falsehoods, a new estimate of America's most promising energy source portends even more gas, oil - and jobs. . . .Researchers at Penn State say the Marcellus Shale has already created 44,000 jobs in Pennsylvania and added $4 billion to the economy in 2009, plus 13,000 jobs in West Virginia and $1 billion to the economy there. Further development could mean almost 300,000 new jobs and $25 billion added to the regional economy over the next decade. (IBD, 8/25/11)

But no matter how many jobs the oil & gas industry creates when the nation needs them the most, legislators and activists across the country are finding ways to hamper the growth. The most recent ploy? Congress' re-examination of tax policies that would increase operating costs for oil & gas producers, effectively straining business operations for small and independent energy producers and decreasing opportunities for more job creation. Take Kansas, for example:

[Kansas' congressional delegation told state producers that] some key decisions will be made in coming months as Congress re-examines tax policy to better match federal revenues with expenses. The "super committee" of representatives and senators created by the debt bill will look at budget cuts, but will probably also look at ways to raise revenue by closing loopholes. But one man's loophole is another man's critical business tool, they said. In particular, KIOGA members are worried that Congress will eliminate the accelerated intangibles provision, which allows oil and gas producers to expense all drilling costs within the year incurred. "It's not a loophole," Huelskamp said. "It's a way of doing business." (Wichita Eagle, 8/23/11)

What more can we say? As estimates of America's shale gas deposits continue to increase, so to do the job-creating opportunities that come with a thriving and domestically-based industry - and even in the face of adversity. While we look forward to hearing the President's plan for an economic recovery in the upcoming weeks, we feel like the brown-nosers in the classroom that know the answer: support the job-creating, regulated, and growing oil and natural gas industry. And not to belabor the point:

Energy company Halliburton plans to hire 11,000 workers in North America in 2011, a top executive told Cramer Wednesday. Jim Brown, president of Western Hemisphere, said many of the new hires will be sent to North Dakota's oil-rich Bakken shale, which is one of the largest oil finds in U.S. history. . .Brown said Halliburton is currently hiring across the board—from MBAs to unskilled workers. 'If you have a willingness to work and an aptitude to learn with a high school education, within a year-and-a-half to two years, you can become a front-line supervisor. That job will pay $125,000 to $130,000 a year,' Brown said. 'It's a tremendous opportunity.'"

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